From idol to diva: the power of Casey Donovan

Casey Donovan, City Recital Hall, Friday, 19 March, 2021. Photo: Robert Catto.

Review: Casey Donovan in Concert at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, Friday, 19 March, 2021. By arts editor Rita Bratovich.

A star exploding into a supernova – that’s what came to mind while attending this incredible performance by Casey Donovan, who is surely destined to become Australia’s own soul queen.

If audience response is anything to go by, she is a goddess. The love in the room was palpable – and audible – during her concert at the City Recital Hall and she gave back to her worshippers in generous handfuls.

Donovan has had quite a journey from the brash 16-year-old winner of Australian Idol in 2004 to the impressive songstress on stage today. Her performances in musicals such as The Sapphires, Miracle, We Will Rock You, Flowerchildren: The Mamas and the Papas Story, and almost stealing the show in Chicago, have proven that she is much more than a one-trick, pre-packaged pop pony.

Add to that her guest appearances on TV, her spectacular New Year’s Eve sets, a near-miss at being our Eurovision rep, and the heart-melting tribute she sang during the 2017 Logies In Memoriam presentation, and you begin to feel a sense of awe around this woman. 

Casey Donovan brings her powerhouse vocals to the City Recital Hall stage, joined by Daniel Edmonds (musical director/piano), their band and a delicious assortment of iconic hits, Friday, 19 March, 2021. Photo: Robert Catto.

For her concert, Donovan, together with musical director, Daniel Edmonds, put together an eclectic list of classic songs spanning time and taste. Heart squeezers like ‘The Rose’ (Bette Midler), ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ (George Michael), ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ (Carole King) and ‘All By Myself’ (Celine Dion) were tumbled in with raunchier numbers like ‘Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles), ‘Rolling In The Deep’ (Adele) and crowd pleasers such as ‘New York State of Mind’ (Billy Joel), ‘Halo’ (Beyonce) and ‘I Have Nothing’ (Whitney Houston). 

For a change of pace, Donovan performed a few duets with back-up singer Luke Antony, including ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ (Bee Gees) and ‘I Finally Found Someone’ (Barbra Streisand/Bryan Adams).

There were some very poignant moments, with tears being conspicuously wiped away, notably during ‘Both Sides Now’ (Joni Mitchell). Donovan also paid homage to Mama Cass Elliot with whom she expressed rapport; ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’ was sung like a call to action and brought down the house.

Casey Donovan, City Recital Hall, Friday, 19 March, 2021. Photo: Robert Catto.

It’s hard to describe Donovan’s voice without overdoing the superlatives but it truly is something to behold. Every note hit the back wall of the auditorium and reverberated around the room with mesmerising purity. She transitioned easily through soulful chanteuse to saucy songstress to captivating diva. 

Between songs, Donovan bantered cheekily with the audience, using humour in the kind of self-deprecating way that says, ‘Yeah, I can laugh at myself and you can laugh at me too, but only on my terms.’

With sincerity emanating from those piercing jade eyes, Donovan described her genuine joy at being able to perform again – a sentiment clearly shared by the audience. 

If you missed out this time, keep an eye out for next time.